SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A former Washington state newspaper editor has been arrested for paying girls in exchange for sexually explicit images.
Steve Smith, 73, was editor-in-chief of The Spokesman-Review in Spokane from 2002 to 2008. Washington State Patrol detectives arrested Smith Thursday on 10 counts of first-degree possession of depictions of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct, KHQ reported.
He declined an in-jail interview with The Spokesman-Review on Thursday night. At a hearing on Friday, he was ordered to post $25,000 bond. The Associated Press was unable Friday night to find an attorney who could speak on Smith’s behalf.
An account in Smith’s name for a mobile cash payment service was linked to an investigation into children using social media to send sexually explicit photos of themselves in exchange for money sent to them through the app, according to court documents.
The victims, girls aged 10 to 14, uploaded images to an Instagram account and received money through a cash app account. Internet activity for both accounts was traced to Smith’s home in Spokane, the documents show.
Chat conversations showed Smith was aware of the girls’ ages, according to the documents.
He had a “very large amount” of images depicting child sexual abuse and was actively uploading more when investigators searched his home on Thursday, the documents show, adding that when a detective asked him if he knew why they were there with a search warrant, he replied, “Yeah, that’s probably from what I uploaded.”
After leaving The Spokesman-Review, Smith served as a clinical associate professor of journalism at the University of Idaho, specializing in teaching journalism ethics. He retired in 2020.
The nonprofit news organization FāVS News, which has employed Smith as a columnist since 2020 and recently named him editor-in-chief, said on Friday he had been suspended indefinitely following the arrest.